Pedal steel driven cowboy western instrumental album adventure.
‘Phantom Threshold’ is the second of three albums being released in 2022 by Dawson and his collection of musicians. The first album, ‘Gone Long Gone’ was released earlier this year to critical acclaim. It explored Vancouver-based Dawson’s “love of roots music in the folk and blues tradition”, and included a mix of songs and instrumentals.
His core band- Jeremy Holmes (bass), Chris Gestrin (keyboards) and Jay Bellerose (drums/percussion) draw their moniker ‘The Telescope Three’ as a nod to Dawson’s 2008 release ‘Telescope’, a pedal steel instrumental album and perhaps a pre-amble to this release.
This album has a great cinematic wide open skies feel to it. Listening along, it is hard not to picture gunfighters facing off on a dusty main street outside a ramshackle saloon, eagles circling over high peaks, or cattle herds raising dust clouds as they pass across the plains in shimmering heat. All these scenes could fit into the soundscape that Dawson and his band create.
It is a top-quality sound track waiting for a good film to complement it. Whilst it captures the very essence of pedal steel guitar country music, its keyboards and electric guitar musings hark back to the psychedelic prog rock of the 70’s and 80s- most notably Pink Floyd comes to mind. The absence of any vocals, allows the quality musicianship to shine through and be the star of the show. Instrumentals don’t work for everyone, but this is one that will stick in the mind, weeks and months after hearing it.
Dawson does not limit himself to one musical style. Whilst many tracks are very much country based with their pedal steel and guitars, he uses his unquestionable talent to bring in other genres – ‘Ol’ Brushy’ has a soul vibe to it, ‘Phantom Threshold’ merges spaghetti western to European folk violin, and there is a very French sounding piano accordion on the cover of the Beach Boys’ song ‘You Still Believe In Me’. There are even some honky-tonk strains on ‘Tripledream’. All of Americana music is here.
This is not an album to be listened to as individual tracks, among algorithm-chosen others, from a streaming platform. It is an album to be enjoyed in that classic way- put it on, shut the door, hang out the ‘do not disturb’ sign and soak it all up- whole and complete.
A group of very talented musicians displaying all their considerable skills. This is quality music for its own sake, and it is intriguing how the music grows with some fresh pearl to be found springing out of the mix with each new listen.
Play Listen Enjoy Repeat.
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